New subs are scarce for BSkyB

Profits for quarter up 10%

Europe’s leading paybox, satcaster BSkyB, added just 40,000 subscribers in the first three months of the year, taking the total to 8.1 million in the U.K. and Ireland.

That’s its lowest figure since Sky became an all-digital service in 2001.

However, combo’s topper James Murdoch put on a bullish front as the City marked down BSkyB’s stock 12 pence (22¢) to $95.28 when trading closed.

Profits for the quarter were up 10% to £425 million ($722.5 million).

He stressed that takeup of hard-disc video recorder Sky Plus had exceeded targets — another 149,000 customers signed up for the service in the quarter — and more than 40,000 people had agreed to take Sky HD, which bows May 22.

There are now 1.43 million homes with Sky Plus, 18% of Sky subscribers; target figure is 25% by the end of 2010.

“Clearly we’re going to murder that (target) in the next 12 to 18 months,” Murdoch told analysts.

Overall, he said BSkyB was performing according to plan for the year.

“Our focus during the quarter was to successfully implement our new customer management systems, complete the final preparations for the launch of Sky HD and continue to ready the business for the launch of residential broadband services in the summer,” Murdoch said.

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